Monday, October 31, 2011

The results

I really thought Wilson or Lex would win "the best hippy" award.  I lost count but it was a pretty close tie between Lex, James and Foggy the rooster.  I think they each got at least 10 votes.  I hadn't thought taking James' picture growing green stuff in the green house would have anything to do with growing up in the 60's and 70's but some of you have minds that think that way, so, ok, that adds to the whole hippy persona.  I doubt you'll ever read in his blog about that kind of weed growing in his green house but  he has changed a lot since I met him so you never know.

Something very exciting happened to me in the past 2 days.  Chy, my oldest donkey, let me ride her.  Now we didn't go far but she did let me sit on her for 15 to 20 minutes two days in a row.  I really think she likes it, though I wonder why she keeps trying to bite me.  I'm sure they're love bites.  When I get off her she comes back for more. 
Today I was enjoying sitting on her back and reveling in how far she and I have come when Benny, an 8 month old goat kid, jumped up and put his front hooves on Chy's ass.  I'll give you one guess where I ended up....yup, on my ass and shoulder on the ground.  Chy came quickly to me with her ears back and it was clear she felt bad.  She nosed me and wouldn't back off till I got up.  I assured her it was ok.  I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow.  Tonight I rode her again for a good while.  We proably took 10 steps in 15 minutes.  I guess we have to start somewhere.

I have high hopes for me and Chy.  Today we took 10 steps, tomorrow............maybe 11.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hippy Halloween

I'm not one to decorate my house for holidays, not even Christmas, but especially not Halloween.  I do, however, love to decorate my family.  I posted their pictures on Facebook and asked for people to vote on who made the best hippy.  I won't tell you who's winning but you're welcome to pipe in.

I realized this afternoon I didn't try dressing up the pigs.  That probably wouldn't have gone so well and they would have eaten the hair.

Note:  No animals were hurt while filming for this blog entry.   Well, maybe the rooster was hurt a little when I caught him but he seems to have forgiven me. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

A new blend of wine - Turnip and Beet

James grows turnips even though we don't eat many of them.  It's not that we hate them but there are so many other vegetables we'd rather eat so we neglect them.  We give some away but it doesn't put a dent in what he grows.  I decided I didn't want to see them go to waste.  I Googled turnip wine and found several recipes, many very different, so I decided to use what I read and make up my own.  We had enough turnips to make 2 or 3 gallons but I figured I might as well make 5  since I have no 2 or 3 gallon carboys so I added beets. 
Here's the recipe I'm using.
15 lbs of turnips and beets, washed and sliced very thin.
15 lbs of sugar
1 can of orange juice concentrate
5 tsp. yeast nutrient
5 campden tablets, crushed
5 tsp acid blend
1 pkg wine yeast
enough water to make 5 gallons

Put the turnip and beet slices in a large jelly bag.  Cover with water and boil till tender.
Place sugar in the fermenting bucket and pour the hot liquid over the sugar.  Put the jelly bag in the bucket too.  Add enough water to fill the bucket.  Add all other ingredients except yeast.  A day later stir everything up and add the yeast.  Follow instructions like you would for any other wine.  In my case it means let it sit for 4 days, remove the turnips and beets (I rarely measure the specific gravity).  Syphon liquid into carboy and attach airlock.  Now wait.

Most of my strawberry and blackberry wines are gone but I still have lots of wineberry, pawpaw and beet wines left so it's cool that I have something else to follow.  It would be fun to find something else to make so I never buy a bottle of wine.  I'm thinking pumpkin is next.  I need more carboys or I at least better start bottling some of the more aged wines. 

It's raining today with snow predicted for tonight.  It was a perfect day to stay indoors and make wine.  I'm not ready for snow. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Love my donkeys

Wilson is such a good sport.  When he sees me with the halter and lead he comes running.  He's eager to please and now it's not just because of the treats I give him, though he likes them too.  Chy loves the treats and affection but doesn't love the halter or being led anywhere.  She'll follow me and Wilson around while he's being led. 
Adam came home for the weekend so I asked him to video me and Wilson. 

I should mention that Wilson will turn left, right and back up even when he's not on a lead and without me touching him.  We turned the camera off before he did these things.  I can't wait till he's old enough to pull a cart. 

I'd like to dress him up for Halloween.  Does anyone have any ideas for costumes?  I know he'll let me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

No Regrets


This is my son's back.  He got this tattoo when he turned 18 because you don't need your parent's consent once you've become "of tattoo age".  I remember feeling disappointed when I saw it.  I thought he could have come up with something better.  I have no idea whether he feels he has no regrets or not but I feel like it's a tattoo I could have gotten.  I think it's more of a statement a 48 year old could make than a now-21-year-old could embrace. 

It's no secret I'm an Oprah fan.  I should go back through my blog and see how many times I've mentioned her.  I just discovered we get the Oprah Winfrey Network in our limited satellite choices.  One of the network's programs is Oprah's Life Class.  A recent show of hers talks about one of her favorite quotes of Maya Angelou - "When you know better you do better".   I like this statement, A LOT.  It says to me that you can make mistakes in your life and you don't have to hold onto them.  It doesn't make you a screw-up.  It makes you who you are.  You learn from these mistakes and from that you discover you can do better.  No regrets, right?

It's really hard for me to come up with any regrets I have in my life.  Maybe that's because I have such a good life.  I feel like it took all I've learned in 48 years to get to this place so how can I regret the choices I've made? 

Ok, maybe I regret eating 2 fudge graham cookies followed by 2 Oreo double stuff cookies for dessert today.   Nahh, it makes me who I am, or at least what my thighs reflect, right?  Yes, I know better but I don't always do better.  Tomorrow is a new day.  I'm going to call Oprah and tell her that's another good motto ---

Tomorrow is a new day. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011



That's what Keri has to say about being spayed.  I dropped her off at the vet yesterday morning and hated seeing her with her tail between her legs.  She's usually such a happy puppy but she looked so timid.  The vet told me she'd have to spend the night and I could pick her up this morning. 

All went well and as I type this Keri is standing in the pouring rain watching the silly chickens run here and there looking for cover.  Earlier I saw her carrying a piece of foam she found in the garage.  She seems no worse for wear and I worried about her for nothing.  I love this little dog.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

End of season pesto

Doesn't your mouth taste like garlic just looking at this picture?  It's loaded with it, I can tell you that.  James usually grows quite a bit of basil and I'm pretty enthusiastic about using it earlier in the summer and then I often lose interest as the summer wears on.  Today I decided it was time to go out and pick all the big leaves before we get a frost.  There was quite a bit.
We're having some on our roasted vegetables tonight and hopefully I put enough in the freezer to get us through the winter.  Our house smells really good.  There's no better room deodorizer than basil and parsley.  We still have lots of parsley in the garden.  I may have to make a parsley pesto.  We also have more garlic than 50 families could possibly use in one year so if anyone needs any we've got it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tour of Elk Cliff Farm

Today a friend from WV sent me some pictures of her 62 acre farm.  I told her I'd send her some pictures of mine (which is half the size of hers).  She doesn't have broadband and it takes a long time to upload pictures so I thought I'd post them in my blog and she could see them here. 
 House, wood shed, rabbit pen and garage
 Until one night ago one of our way-too-many-roosters thought he should sleep on the front porch railing.  He's still alive.  I think he just found another place to sleep.
 Patio with pizza oven and open fired grill.
Some of James' gardens.
This is the swimming hole just below the small cliff that our farm got it's name from.
This is the view of our orchard and field from our front porch.  I guess the rooster liked this view.
Wilson and his long ears.

Chy and Wilson aren't camera shy.

Girls resting in their barn.

Donkey's and goat's pasture.
View of the James River from the field campsite.
Velma and Roxie probably weigh 125 lbs now.  They sure eat a lot.
They fight over the food.

James River Rd. divides our property in two. You can see campers driving past because Yogi Bear Jellystone Campground is just one mile down the road from us. 
These guys were waiting for me when I came back from the river.  Keri, the one with the tail, is only 5 1/2 months old but she's so big she hardly looks like a puppy anymore.  She still acts like one though.

She doesn't give Lex a moment's rest but he likes her.  She's walking under him in this picture and biting his legs.  When he gets tired of her he comes in the house.

I guess that's about it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sweet potatoes

I can't remember James ever having great success with sweet potatoes.  Maybe he has and I've forgotten.    Today I went out to the garden to take down some netting that was supposed to be keeping animals out.  I wanted to cut the grass and it was in the way.  This was the only time I've looked very closely at the sweet potato plants.  James usually checks for what's ready so I was amazed to find beautiful sweet potatoes rising out of the dark earth before he did.  All I had to do was pull gently and out they came, big, beautiful, reddish sweet potatoes.  My favorite one is the one that looks flamingo-like. 
I wanted to keep pulling more out but figured I'd leave them there until James decided when they should come up since he's the gardener.  I can't wait till he gets home so I can show him how pretty his potatoes are.  I was so distracted by the potatoes (you know, having to clean them and take pictures for my blog) I never did get around to cutting the grass.

Guess what's for dinner.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Learning about herb tinctures

Susan invited me to a workshop yesterday where we learned about herbal remedies, uses for different plants and how to make our own tinctures.  I just learned what a tincture was within this last year.  Four of us showed up at Peggy's house and she took us on a tour of her gardens telling us what was what and what it could be used for and what parts to use.  She was very patient as we all jumped in asking question after question.  I wish I had my camera so I could have taken pictures of her full gardens.

Next we went up to her apothecary where she already had some herbs ready for us.  We each chose the one that spoke to us.  I chose the dandelion because we have them all over the place.  The benefits of dandelions are too numerous for me to list so I'll share this link The other choices were echinacea, holy basil, hyssop, horehound and passion fruit plant.  I made 2 tinctures, one with the dandelion root and one with the green leaves.  I cut them into small slices with scissors and put them in jars till they were full when I tamped them down.  Next I poured 100 proof vodka on top leaving almost no head space.  I put the lid on and shook for a good while.  I will do this every few days for 6 weeks when it's ready to use.  After the 6 weeks I will strain the leaves or roots out and press them to get as much juice from them as I can.  I'll have to experiment with how much to use.  Dropfuls of the tincture are to be added to a glass of water and drink. 

Peggy sent me home with some holy basil so today I made a tincture from it.   I found this website  which describes much better than I can what people use holy basil for.  It's often used to treat depression, anxiety, ADD,  give you more strength and stamina, etc, etc.  I sure could use some help concentrating these days.  I have a harder and harder time staying focused on one thing at a time.  A little stamina couldn't hurt either.  I also bought a tincture from her called eleuthera which also helps with memory and concentration. 

First I cut the basil in small pieces.  The only part I didn't use were the woody stems.

I saved some seeds so we can plant our own next year.  Its leaves are not shiny like the Italian basil we grow and, like the basil we usually cook with it smells heavenly but has its own unique wonderful smell.  I added the vodka, shook and was done.  Very simple.  Now I wait.

I want to pick some stinging nettles from near our cabin to make tea or a salve since I'm told it has many nutrients and healing properties.  It's also an anti-inflamatory and used for arthritis and aching joints.

I've always appreciated herbs but more for cooking than homeopathic reasons.  I'm learning a lot from my friends. 

Susan, what did I leave out?

Friday, October 7, 2011


James and I have made plans to fence in our field and put a well in so we can rotate our animals to avoid parasite problems and manage pasture.  Summertime is always the hardest when our grass barely grows and what does grow is overgrazed.  Because our field borders the James River and Elk Creek we're eligible for the cost share program the state offers.  This means the state of VA will pay for some of the fencing, well and troughs just to keep the animals from pooping in the waters.

This whole project is turning into a learning experience and is more involved than I thought.  I won't go into too much detail but I will tell you it sure requires lots of phone calls, paperwork and more people than I would have thought.  First the USDA federal and state guys came out to look at what we were considering doing and tell us if we qualified and who would work with us.  Next a plan was drawn up and presented to a board of some sort who decided our property was worthy of assistance.  I had to sign some papers saying we were going to begin work.  I called a well digger.  He came out to look at the job and told me he could get started as soon as I had my permit from the health department.  I have no idea what this permit is for but we applied for one and it should be in the mail sometime soon, I hope, now that they received our $300.00 check.  The fence guy came out next.  We talked over our plan and he said he could start in the next 3 weeks.  He will also be digging the trenches for plumbing and putting in troughs and hydrants.  I asked our electrician to run wire in the same trench as the plumbing since it will be opened up.  For him to do this I had to call our electric company and put in a service request just to get a guy out here to look at the job.  He came and told me where we should put our 16 foot pole for service.  The electrician told me the next day I need to call the county planning office to get an affidavit for farm structure exemption, meaning we don't need a permit (unbelievable) but we need to fill out this form to avoid the $42.00 fee.  I'm not sure I understand the affadavit so I need to talk again to the planning director on Monday.  The electrician asked me what kind of pump (2 wire or 3 wire) the well guy was putting in and how much horsepower it would have.  Of course I didn't know this and had to call them.  When I told him it was a 2 wire he asked me if I knew why they chose that over the 3 wire.  Of course I don't know that but I'll call and find out. 

I know there will be more paperwork ahead but I kind of feel like the hardest parts are done.  Or am I just kidding myself?  I sure hope I'm doing this right.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A ride in the saddle

James and I hadn't ridden horses in 13 years, and before that who knows how long.  Yesterday we went horseback riding with Melissa (Adam's girlfriend) and her mom, Kathleen.  They're both pros at this and were very patient with us.  The horses belonged to Kathleen.  She had a sign in her kitchen that read "horses are like potato chips, you can't have just one".  Of course I've heard this about goats all the time and I'll bet there's a sticker that says the same thing for all kinds of animals.  I definitely get it.

We rode trails on a 350 acre farm where they board their horses.  It's a beautiful place.  First we groomed our horses, Missy (for me) and Sampson (for James).  They stood there very calmly as we brushed them.  I never felt threatened by these animals that are probably twice the size of my donkeys or more.  I've felt intimidated by horses in the past.  Once saddled up Melissa took us to the ring to give us a lesson on how to hold reins, sit, keep them from eating grass and basically make sure we were going to be safe.  She's a good teacher.  We rode for about 2 hours through meadows and the woods.  I'm proud to say we survived and so did the horses.  Here are a few pictures to prove it

Doesn't James look like he's a natural leading a horse?

My butt is a bit sore today but I feel pretty good otherwise. 

There's a horse trail just a mile down the road from us that goes for miles.  I would love to get 2 mammoth donkeys so James and I can ride the trails at home.  Here's a girl, Honey, I looked at about a month ago.   She's a real sweetheart and followed me everywhere. 

A friend of mine tells me mammoth donkeys are on the endangered list.  I believe it because they're so hard to find in the east.  There are a lot of them in Texas it seems as I search the internet.  People just don't need them for plowing or pulling anymore.  I would think folks would be going back to this with the prices of fuel what they are.  I think they're going to make a comeback.  Maybe next year James can plow a new garden with a mammoth donkey.